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Basic Hand Feeding Guide

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    Before you pull your babies the first thing is to make sure you have all the supplies you need for the size babies you have. Here's a list:        I pull the babies from the nest at about 2- 21/2 weeks of age. I set them up in a plastic small animal container with a heating pad on low under it. I regulate the temperature by covering it and then adjusting the covers to maintain the heat at 90- 95 degrees. Warmer depending on how many chicks you have.
       The babies will eat every 31/2-4 hours at this age from 7:00am to 11:00pm. They'll only eat 3-6cc per feeding. For a clutch of lovebirds, when you first pull them, you will only need to mix about a teaspoon to a teaspoon and a half of food. Mix it according to directions. Each brand is a bit different. I add just a sprinkle of Lacto-Plus with each morning feeding.  VIDEO CLIP
       You need to stretch their crop so they'll be able to eat enough to sustain their growth rate of the next few weeks. At each feeding, feed them 1/2 -1 cc more then they got the feeding before till they are up to taking 8cc at each feeding. I don't feed any more then this because it stretches the crop too much and the babies will take longer to wean. For lovebirds the max I feed is 8cc's, cockatiels - 16cc's and quakers 24cc's.
       I heat up a cup of water to 115 degrees and use the thermometer to maintain that temp. Fill all the syringes needed to feed the clutch and put them in the cup to stay warm while you're feeding. I hold the bird's head right at the jaw line between my thumb and index finger. This will produce the feeding response.   VIDEO CLIP
       After checking the temp of the food again, it never should be above 108 degrees. I also put a drop on the upper part of my lip and let it sit a minute; if it continues to get warmer then I pull the plunger back on the syringe and shake it to cool the formula down. Feeding formula to hot can cause a lot of damage to the crop; this could also kill a baby. Once you're sure the temp is safe put the syringe in the right side of the beak aimed at the left. Watch how the bird swallows.   VIDEO CLIP   When the bird stops swallowing then you have to stop pushing on the syringe. If the food comes out the sides of the beak all you have to do is push it back in with the tip of the syringe. The bird will stretch to reach the syringe pull the syringe out of the beak and let the bird stand normally and look at the amount of food in the crop never fill the crop so full that the food goes back up into the throat.
       Once the bird is well feathered, you can feel where the food is. Run your finger down the throat till you feel it's little Adam's apple, the food should never be above this point.   VIDEO CLIP    Here's a shot of an unfeathered bird so you can see the crop better.   VIDEO CLIP
       Birds swallow air right along with the food and will get air in the crop. Sometimes this has to be burped out just like a human baby. You can't pat the little guy on the back so what you have to do is work the air to the base of the throat by massaging the crop. When the air is in position then push on the crop just a touch so the air will raise. Never try this without an experienced person beside you the first few times. You never want to push food back up the throat cause you could cause the bird to aspirate and this also can kill a baby.
       As you are increasing the amount of food you are giving them at each feeding the time in between feedings will increase to 5 hours by the time they are 31/2 weeks old. As soon as you see them picking at their feet is when you should put in human foods and pellet powder or the smallest pellets you can find on the bottom of the container. They will play with it at this age but will soon start to eat it.
       There are many ways to hand feed and you have to pick the one that is easiest for you, but I feel that all breeders should at least know how to tube feed. This is a must at many times. All birds will regress when moved and sometimes stop eating so knowing how to tube feed can save birds life in this state. To tube feed you mix your food the same way but put the feeding needle on the end of the syringe. Hold the bird in the same way and place the ball of the needle in the back of the throat. The bird will start to swallow and will swallow the tube down. It's bent to make it slip down very easily. If you feel any resistance then stop immediately. When you are in the right place it will slide down very easily. Have another breeder or your vet teach you to do this it should never be attempted without guidance.
       Many breeders are more then happy to help a new comer. Subscribe to an e-mail list on the species of your choice. Here you can get many different opinions, methods and ways to do the same thing. No one person is right. You do whatever works for you. Be a breeder with an open mind. Bird breeding and ownership is in its infancy so changes are being made all the time with the more knowledge we gain. Keep that mind open and you'll have happier healthier babies.
       No matter what method of feeding you do, the tameness will really depend on the amount of socialization you give the birds. The parents nurture them in the box and you need to do it also. Spend time with the babies a few times a day. I do usually put them back in their container right after feeding. It s. It seems that feeding them stimulates their own eating response if placed back right away. As soon as they are replaced they start to nibble on the foods on the bottom of the container. My birds are taken to the breakfast and dinner table and taught table manners, (no stepping on plates) and are allowed out in the evenings while we are on the computer or watching TV. Here they learn to explore but that they can come to us at any time for the cuddles and scratches. Food is placed out for them also so they learn to go to the food source when out.

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